MMiranda and Osborn hit the debate room to discuss why they feel nay or yay regarding the Knicks trading Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and Jose Calderon for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2017 2nd-round pick. Mostly we discuss Rose and Lopez, focusing on four aspects of the move. Spoiler: our opinions differ!
1. How good is Derrick Rose?
MMiranda: The player the Knicks acquired is not Derrick Rose, MVP. Not Derrick Rose, All-Star. Not even Derrick Rose, above-average point guard. Rose's PER was below the league average last year. His true shooting % was the worst he's ever had in a (mostly) full season. He can't shoot. He can't defend. He hasn't been "Derrick Rose" since 2012. 2012! That means the Knicks have been good more recently than Derrick Rose.
How far have expectations sunk when we console ourselves with "Well, he's better than what they had"? Rose's PER (13.5) was barely higher than Jose Calderon's (12.3) and well behind Robin Lopez's (17.6). Any faith in the idea of Rose as an upgrade is dependent on him being healthier and productive than he's been in years. How does an injury-prone point guard who can't shoot or defend help?
Last but not least: Rose is heading toward the last meaningful free agency of his lifetime next summer. He's spoken before about how important that is to him. Knowing that, and knowing he's probably only a one-year rental for New York, can we reasonably expect him to accept being a tertiary option behind Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis?
Osborn: Although he is a terrible defender, Rose knows how to run an offense with assertiveness and confidence, neither of which could be said about Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant. Going down the per-100 possession numbers and his advanced defensive metrics, you'll see some ugly shit, but he's also a motivated player this season. Somehow Rose remains marketable, so if he can summon from himself a mediocre 2016-17, he might be able to convince a small-market owner to give him a shot to reclaim his former glory. Don't forget that a ton of teams are saving cap space for a juicy free agent class, which means a lot of teams will swing and miss, and will be in the market for a plan B (or C).
2. How good is Robin Lopez?
Osborn: Lopez had a good season, but with Kristaps Porzingis set to make his long-term move to center over the next two seasons, why not start immediately? Porzingis has spent much of his summer lifting weights to gain bulk, and perhaps the Knicks' willingness to move Lopez is a positive indicator for his success in doing so. Maybe Phil Jackson in his meeting meeting with Jeff Hornacek discussed how important it is in today's shrinking and widening NBA climate to slide Porzingis to center immediately.
If the move to rid the team of Lopez had more to do with plans for Porzingis to fill more minutes as a big man, I think that's a defensible outcome. Although his body could not have handled it last season, perhaps Porzingis expressed confidence in his ability to slide to center right away. The Knicks perhaps could have capitalized more on his value, but if they were going to move Lopez at least they didn't acquire salary beyond 2017.
MMiranda: Gooder than Rose, but not great. So the question isn't "Why would you trade Lopez?" but rather "Why trade him now?" Lopez was coming off a pleasantly surprising 2016. If he was at the height of his value, why waste it on an expiring contract run-down Rose? Next summer, when RoLo's contract would be an even better deal under the rising cap, wouldn't someone in a league awash with cash say "Yes! Give me a quality center on a market-friendly contract for only 3 more years!" This trade feels more and more like the poor man's Andrea Bargnani deal, i.e. you gave up that for this?
Let's say the Knicks add Joakim Noah or Pau Gasol. Are either of those guys are better than Lopez? Short answer = no. Long answer = no, and on top of that...
3. What is Phil Jackson's plan?
MMiranda: The one unquestionable benefit to the Rose trade is it gives the Knicks more cap room next summer. Phil Jackson took over this team more than two years ago. He's overturned the entire roster since then (almost twice!). And after all that...we're still waiting for the future?!
Do we trust Phil Jackson in free agency? Is he gonna dump his 11 rings on the table and voila! instant superteam? Last summer Jackson made 4 major signings. Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams opted out after one year; Afflalo's a goner (I'm cool wit dat), and D-Will isn't a move-the-needle talent. Kyle O'Quinn got a four-year deal and all we've seen from him so far is that he may not be as good as Jason Smith and he's been charged with assault (we'll come back to this). Far and away Jackson's best signing was Lopez, who has essentially been traded in for future cap room. That's like buying a $1,000,000 scratch-off ticket, winning, then spending your winnings on a million dollars worth of scratch-off tickets.
What is the value of cap space going forward, especially when the entire league will have cap space next summer and a lockout looming? LeBron James will probably be technically available. So will Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Maybe other guys, too. Maybe not. What if you don't land one of the big fish? Then it's 2010 all over again, with nine figures worth of dollars burning a hole in your pocket to give to the latest Amar'e Stoudemire.
Osborn: I think your doomsday scenario of having tons of cap space with nowhere to spend it is possible, but I also think it's less likely to occur to the Knicks than most other teams. If the Knicks choose to stand pat with the roster they have, while only adding smaller pieces to fill out the wing and backup guard spots, they will maintain the flexibility to sign two valuable free agents in 2017.
If they perform well this season, it will mean Kristaps Porzingis will have taken a massive step forward while Carmelo Anthony continued his evolution toward completeness rather than scoring. It would also likely mean the Knicks found an additional asset in the form of a now-unknown young player. It would also mean Hornacek's "system" or otherwise form of coaching has been immediately successful.
The Knicks are unlikely to perform well this season. But this time, if they don't, they'll actually have a 2017 draft pick for their misery. Next year's draft is shaping up to be much better and deeper than this one, and it is especially rich with pick-and-roll point guards. Frank Ntilikina is likely to declare next year along with current high school seniors Markelle Fultz, De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith. Each carries a unique profile but all of them share a proficiency in the pick-and-roll.
If the Knicks are taking a page out of the Lakers' book and allowing name brand players to sell jerseys while tanking for a draft, I can squint and see the logic in trading Lopez as part of this deal. They probably could have gotten a better return than Rose, but if they're looking at the #1 pick next season I don't think anybody will complain about Robin Lopez.
4. Does Madison Square Garden care at all about the messages it sends?
MMiranda: Rose is facing a civil suit, accused of sexual assault. None of us can pretend to know if he's guilty or not guilty. And he isn't even the only Knick being accused to assaulting a woman. Rose's trial would begin the first day preseason. Most organizations you'd trust to be aware of such details going forward; some you could even trust not to get involved in anything potentially this ugly. One of Phil Jackson's first moves was to trade Raymond Felton as soon as possible after an incident involving a gun and Felton's wife. I thought that was exhibit A in Madison Square Garden's new age of awareness. Instead I feel like Phil's one of the guys now...and some of those guys were deemed legally responsible in Anucha Browne Sanders's 2007 sexual harassment lawsuit. I don't care how tall or how great Porzingis is. Even 7'3" of burning sage isn't enough to clean the stink out of them optics.
Osborn: This is a more difficult angle to defend. As someone who clearly remembers the Anucha Browne Sanders nightmare that I bet will somehow be brought into the news again in the next calendar year somehow, I am really sick of this bullshit. No one has proven that Derrick Rose committed sexual assault, but coming off the heels of Kyle O'Quinn's own alleged transgressions, this move is curious from a public relations and humanistic standpoint.
All things considered, this is kind of the Knicks' M.O. They have typically given little thought over the recent years about the backgrounds of their players, opting instead to offer the benefit of the doubt. JR Smith was acquired without second thought despite his checkered past, and James Dolan's continued affection for and employment of Isiah Thomas tells you all you need to know about how image conscious he chooses to be. As much as I agree with you about the lack of thought put into the move, it does not surprise me considering the context.